Scientific Name: Panicum virgatum

Common Name: switchgrass

Habit: Switchgrass is a clumpy, perennial grass that typically grows to 3 to 7 ft in height. It spreads by rhizomes and forms loose clumps or patches.

Leaves: The leaves are flat, 0.5 inches wide, and grow up to 30 inches long. The leaf blades have rough margins and a prominent midrib.The ligule is a fringe of hairs with a dense patch of hairs extending on the upper leaf surface.

Identifying Characteristics: Switchgrass can often be confused with bluestem and indiangrass. The flowers in large open panicles is distinctive characteristic. The hair at the point where the leaf attaches to the stem is a distinguishing characteristic compared to other warm-season grasses. The rhizomes are scaly and creeping.

Flower Seed Head: The seedhead is an open panicle that is 15 to 20 inches long and is usually formed in late may through June. The seed head is pyramid shaped.

Seed Fruit: Seeds are initially pink or dull purple but turn golden brown in the fall.

Where Found: Switchgrass is adapted for a wide range of soil types and site conditions. The growth habit enables it to survive extreme drought conditions. It is often grown as forage crop, natural wide life habitat, and as a bioenergy crop. Switchgrass spans throughout much of the U.S.

  • Life cycle: perennial

  • Plant type: Grass

  • Auricle: not present

  • Plant family: Poaceae

  • Leaf arrangement: rolled in bud

  • Hair surface: no hairs

  • Ligule: hairy

  • Length: more than 3 mm

  • Seed head: panicle

  • Width: more than 15 mm

  • Grass stem: round